Liang Congjie: Preserving China鈥檚 Environment 06-28-2004 09:54

鈥淔rom tiny acorns, big trees grow.鈥 A believer that small steps in the right direction today can in the long-term, lead to powerful results, Liang Congjie is the champion of environmental education, conservation and protection in China. His goal is to help preserve China鈥檚 natural environment for the benefit of generations to come.

An ordinary man in appearance, Liang Congjie has by no means had an ordinary life. A professor of history at the Academy for Chinese Culture and an editor of China's encyclopedia, he founded Friends of Nature (FON)鈥擟hina's first non-governmental environmental organization鈥攊n 1994, out of a sense of social responsibility and a love of nature. He and his 700-member organization have devoted themselves to being China鈥檚 foremost environmental advocators ever since.

Environmental education is the main aim of FON. Since 1999, it has launched the "Environmental Education Van Program" as well as an action group to further environmental awareness among secondary school students in rural areas: "The Green Hope Initiative."

It also runs "The Better Environment Scheme"which is sponsored by the Shell Co., to encourage primary and middle school students to design and implement environment protection projects in their own communities.

The campaign Liang and his co-workers led against the slaughter of the endangered Tibetan antelope, whose hair is used to make the fashionable Shatoosh scarves, was another great victory for the organization. As Shatoosh scarves are mostly favored by fashion conscious women in Western countries, Liang wrote to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during his visit to Beijing in early 1999, asking for the British Government to pay greater attention to stopping the trade of Shatoosh scarves in U.K.

Meanwhile, FON was busy collecting money for the under equipped Wild Yak Brigade鈥攖he only armed patrol team that regularly patrols Hoh Xil, habitat of the Tibetan antelope in Qinghai Province. The funds collected provided the Wild Yak Brigade with two top-of-the-range Beijing army jeeps, resulting in the confiscation of about 400 antelope skins.

Liang felt money alone could not help solve some of the basic problems in the battle, so he wrote a report about the Tibetan antelope situation to the State Environmental Protection Administration and the State Forestry Administration, in which he called for the Central Government to coordinate and substantially expand the anti-poaching efforts.

A coordinated police action, the largest in the 50-year history of the People鈥檚 Republic, was launched in April 1999, resulting in the arrest of more than a dozen groups of poachers, and the confiscation of 500 to 600 Tibetan antelope skins.

Neither seeing the confiscated skins destroyed by fire nor winning the 2000 Philippine Ramon Magsaysay Award for his extraordinary work on environmental protection has slowed the pace of this energetic conservationist. Perhaps he will only really celebrate when the whole of society promotes the awareness of environmental protection.

"We are advocates of controlled consumption, not suspension of development. I avoid empty 'green' words鈥攕logans that have no practical value. We have to work very hard to solve problems pragmatically."


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